July 6, 2015

Leaving off in the Middle

One of the delights of our family’s Lord’s Day evenings (and other evenings as well) is to spend time reading to our children. And one of the sources of greatest joy and blessing has been in reading bits and pieces from a series of books called Building on the Rock, developed by Diana Kleyn and Joel Beeke. Each of the five books contains between two and three dozen brief anecdotes (some real-life, and others fiction) that reinforce scriptural truth and remind us of how God is at work in all sorts of everyday circumstances.

So this past Sunday evening we found ourselves reading the brief account of a little girl who, while awaiting her train in a railway station, spotted a particularly fierce looking man in the corner. He was a convict, in police custody, and being transported to the location where he would serve a twenty-year prison term. And the lass felt sorry for him, and ventured to speak a very brief word to him about Jesus – but with no forthcoming sign that the man had any place in his heart for her kind words. And then the train arrived, and the girl and her father boarded one railcar, and the prisoner another, and she never saw the man again.

And I paused the story at this point, and made like this was the conclusion of the story. And, of course, the children – understanding both the nature of story-telling, and the nature of their teasing dad – knew that I was just pulling their legs. Stories don’t end in the middle like that! And so, of course, there must be more – more about what happened to the man, and more about how the little girl’s tiny witness made a difference in his life. No! Her departure simply could not be the end of the story!

Except that it suddenly occurred to me that … well … from the little girl’s (earthly) perspective, this was the end of the story. She boarded her train and never had any idea if perhaps the small seed she’d planted had found any little crevice in that poor man’s hard heart. And I reflected on that fact with the kids. Because this is so often the way our own stories unfold. We speak a word for Jesus here, or serve someone in His name there … and then the train leaves, or the flight lands, or the children leave the Bible club, or the homeless person shuffles off into the sunset, or the neighbors move away … and we never know what God did with our attempt to sow the good seed. It’s like stopping a good story before the ending!

Real life doesn’t always unfold quite as neatly or quickly as the stories, even in a non-fiction book – which are written down at a distance of years, by an outside observer who knows how everything turned out, and who is going to tell you all you want to know in just a few more pages or paragraphs. More often than not, when it comes to the various real-life stories in which we find ourselves as characters, the book seems to close before we ever find out how God worked the ending. It’s not that the various stories have no ending, but simply that our Father doesn’t always choose to tell us what it is! And we have to be okay with that. We have to be content to await the great day when (perhaps) our heavenly Father will complete many of the stories which, in this life, He chose not to read us all the way to the end.

And, if you’re wondering what happened to the prisoner after the little girl went on her way … well, you’ll either have to buy the book, or just allow my strategic leaving off in the middle to help you learn the lesson that I’m aiming to teach in this article! Be content to sow the gospel seed … and trust that God will bring in His harvest, even if you are not chosen to be there at the reaping.

No comments: